Holiday Gift Guide — AND GIVEAWAY!

24 11 2011

It’s just about that time of year, my good people, when all your favorite gift-giving holidays convene. That’s right, such holidays as: my mom’s birthday. My grandmother’s birthday. National Fritters Day. Letter Writing Day. Pepper Pot Day. AND MANY MORE!

You will need to be armed to the teeth with gifts if you hope to make it to the other end of December alive. Personally, I like to do all my shopping from the same location, as far away from humanity as possible, and preferably while sitting. I think you know what that means—online shopping! This post will almost entirely feature items from JetPens; maybe, if I’m feeling particularly industrious, I’ll do another (or more?!) post(s) involving writing utensils from other websites.

And! As promised in the title, there will be a giveaway associated with this post. Details will follow. But first—pens!

I’ll organize this into two major categories—pens I own, and pens I don’t own but am going to recommend anyway—and for the first category, I’ll break it down by price. Let’s begin!


Pens I Own

$1 to $10

There are far too many pens in this category to list them all individually. So I’ve compiled a wish list of them on JetPens! And now it can be your wish list.


$11 to $30

Pentel Pocket Brush Pen for Calligraphy – $13.50

Great for artists and people who can write in Japanese.

It’s got individual synthetic fiber bristles, and it’s refillable. Can write from a hair-thin line to an I-can’t-be-bothered-to-measure-how-thick broad line. Comes with 2 refills.


Uni-ball Alpha Gel Kuru Toga Mechanical Pencil – 0.5mm – $14.00

This has all my favorite things in a mechanical pencil. All of them. Including lead.

Fantastically comfortable Alpha-Gel grip + Kuru Toga lead-rotating mechanism = maybe the best pencil ever? Especially helpful for those who have to take a bunch of scantron tests / handwrite a bunch of essays in pencil. A.k.a. students.


Uni-ball Jetstream Alpha Gel Grip Series Ballpoint Pens – 0.7mm – $16.50

There is possibly nothing I can do to make this ballpoint pen better.

Can’t have my favorite mechanical pencil without my favorite ballpoint pen. As an added bonus, I have reviewed this one before! This body takes any size Jetstream retractable refill (I currently have the 0.5mm refill in mine), and also fits the Zebra Sarasa gel refills.


Sailor HighAce Neo Beginner’s Fountain Pen – $16.50

Be careful, you're gonna put your eye out with that thing.

I’ve reviewed this one before, too. It’s a nice fine nib pen. Warning: doesn’t come with a refill. I’d advise buying the converter; it’s cheaper than the cartridges, and easier to refill. Warning: I bought the cartridges (which I refill by syringe), but I have not personally tried the converter.


Akayashi Sai Watercolor Brush Pen – 5 Color Autumn Set – $17.50

Convenient watercolors? Yes. It can exist.

I would recommend buying these brush pens with the Akashiya Sai Watercolor Mini Pallet ($4.50) and a waterbrush pen like the Kuretake Small Compact Size ($4.25), which actually pushes the total cost of this set up to $26.25, but I think it’s worth it. And the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen works great with these for a watercolor black.


J. Herbin Tapered Body Frosted Glass Dip Pen – Large – $20.00

Fun fact: I studied abroad in Venice before my fine pen obsession kicked in. I only bought 1 glass dip pen from Murano. I REGRET THIS VERY STRONGLY.

Impractical, but beautiful. Especially nice for ink enthusiasts (I recommend Noodler’s, which you can get through places like Goldspot Pens or the Goulet Pen Company). Easy to clean; just don’t drop it.


Kaweco Classic Sport Fountain Pen – $21.00

Alas, the price has gone up on these since I bought this one. Curse you, modern economy!

From extra-fine nib to broad nib in a variety of colors. Also check out the Kaweco Ice Sport line if you like translucent and bright colors. I have the medium nib, which I find to be one of the thinner mediums I own.


Lamy Safari, Vista, and Al-Star Fountain Pens – $26, $26, and $37.50

So the Lamy Al-Star is technically out of this arbitrary price category I decided to sort things by. JUST TRY TO STOP ME!

Colorful, durable, with nibs ranging from extra-fine to broad, and in my experience, they’ve all been wonderful writers. I’d recommend getting the converter with this one, as these pens go well with having a nigh unlimited spectrum of ink colors to choose from. Warning: also recommending the converter because the Lamy takes a special cartridge rather than the standard international short cartridge. The pen is designed so that you just drop the cartridge in and then twist the nib section back onto the barrel; the cartridge then punctures itself. Warning: I’ve never actually tried to shove an international short cartridge into a Lamy, as far as I can remember, so I can’t advise what would happen.


Lamy Joy Calligraphy Fountain Pen – $29

Pen is conveniently named to describe what emotion you'll be experiencing while using said pen

Comes with a converter. And a lovely tapered body. And the cap posts on the end! Calligraphy nib options: 1.1mm, 1.5mm, and 1.9mm. Nibs are interchangeable with the regular Lamy nibs, if you just like the body.


$30 and up (except for the already mentioned Lamy Al-Star)

A. G. Spalding & Bros. Mini Fountain Pen – Fine Nib – $33.00

Sleek and classy, like a little sci-fi spaceship.

This pen has grown on me a lot more since I first reviewed it, and especially since I started using Rotring Turquoise ink in it (warning: that is a ridiculous price; I paid $4 for my refills at the Art Brown Pen Shop, but they don’t seem to sell that refill online). More of a medium or maybe even broad (what do I know; I never use broad nibs) nib. Warning: do not try to take the clip off or accidentally take the clip off. It comes off, and scratches the satin metal finish in the process. Oops.


Kaweco Liliput Al Fountain Pen – $53.00

This is such a disappointingly unsexy picture of a phenomenally sexy pen.

I got the fine nib. Yes, this pen is everything I hoped for, and also more. Yes, I desperately owe you all a proper review of this pen;  I am waiting for the opportunity and the lighting so that I can take the kind of pictures that do this pen justice.  Comes in extra-fine to broad nibs. Takes international short cartridges. Also takes….YOUR HEART.


Pilot Prera Clear Body Fountain Pen – $58.00

When I first held this pen, I couldn't leave the store without buying it. And now here we are!

I bought the fine nib, which was a Japanese fine nib—also known as an extra exceptionally fine line nib. Possibly the finest nib I own (too bad I dropped it on the nib (ARGH WHOOPS)). Also comes in medium nib. I’d recommend getting the Pilot Plumix as well (currently cheapest at Target, I believe); the nibs are interchangeable. You (like me) can have a Pilot Prera with an italic nib! Makes your handwriting look even fancier than normal.


Pens I Don’t Own

I’m only going to make two recommendations. First, the Uni-ball Jetstream 4&1 4 Color Ballpoint Multi Pen + 0.5mm Pencil ($16.50); I bought one for a friend and he loves it. Four colors of Jetstreams, a pencil, and an eraser all in one body! Second, the Zebra Sharbo X….specifically the Zebra Sharbo X LT3 Pen Body Component – Silver ($49.50). Look at that thing. I want it. Why wouldn’t you?





Brad at JetPens has generously offered up a $10 JetPens gift card for one lucky commenter on this post! The rules:

  1. Leave one comment on this post any time between now and Sunday, November 27th 12:00 PM Eastern Standard Time. This contest is open to all readers in any country! That includes you, international people!
  2. One winner will be picked at random from the comments section of this post. Just make any kind of comment—but only one comment! Comments in excess of one shall be deleted. The comments will be numbered in the order they are received, i.e. the first comment is #1, the second #2, and so on. The Random Integer Generator at will be used to pick the number of the winner.
  3. I’ll post the contest winner in the evening of Sunday, November 27th (sometime between noon and midnight). Winner will have one week to email me. There’s a link to my email at the top of the right sidebar.

Good luck! And preemptive happiness to your holidays!



P.S. I should have it set up so comments will post without my having to approve them all moderator-style. But if your comment doesn’t show up right away, that means I didn’t set that up correctly, and your comment will show up when I go through and hit “approve” on all of them. Don’t worry! Or, if you are worried, feel free to email me!

Akashiya Sai Watercolor Brush Pen – 5 Autumn Color Set + Akashiya Sai Watercolor Mini Pallet + Kuretake Waterbrush – Small – Compact Size

10 12 2010

It makes no sense to review these separately. Enjoy an excruciatingly long title instead!  So, I was looking for something fun to round out a recent Jetpens order when this watercolor brush pen set caught my eye.

Look! Primary colors! This is important. Also, check this nice plastic case! Bonus.

Being an impatient person, I like to practice the infuriating art of watercolors. I tell myself that it’s an exercise in improving my disposition; like meditation, but with more mess. Also, more set-up. Though I have both watercolor cakes (cheap, but my favorite) and tubes, as well as a whole mess of brushes and several sketchbooks of cold press paper, I rarely use them. Doing watercolors involves a ritualistic set up: get the two glasses of water, lay out the mixing trays and colors, get some newspaper, prepare drawings, get some cups for the brushes…look, I swear it’s a lot more of a pain to do than it is to describe. I still haven’t cleaned out my water cups from the last time I did a full watercolor set up. My tubes are shoved in a defunct purse somewhere in my room, and the watercolor cakes are under the bathroom sink, for reasons I can only hope existed and made sense at the time.

Enter the Akashiya Sai watercolor brushes.

With these colors, I can recreate the entire rainbow and RULE THE WORLD..of...rainbow making...?

I picked up the Autumn color set because, if these things operated like regular watercolor brushes, then really, all I needed were the primary colors (and black, which, for this, I used the Pentel standard brush pen—but that’s another review), and I could then make any color I wanted.

Poor recent college graduates can’t just go around buying pens all willy-nilly (in spite of what my monthly(more like twice monthly) JetPens orders might suggest). Gotta be crafty, gotta mix things up. Literally. In a palette. With a water brush pen.

A waterbrush pen. Only one. Don't let the picture fool you.

Before and after use. Actually, having two of these would be fantastic.

While the Kuretake waterbrush pen is billed as “small” and “compact size,” I can tell you that it’s the size of a normal pen (actually a bit longer, and a bit thicker). I was worried we would be dealing with mini-pen sized dispensers of water; this is not the case. Cease your worrying, good citizen. The Akashiya mini palette is a nice sturdy plastic, easy to wash, and fits neatly in the front zipper pocket of my Nomadic PE-08 Easy Classification pencil case (but that is yet another review). After boggling vacantly at the whole assembly, I figured out what I can only assume is the correct system for mixing colors (I do not read Japanese, nor did this come with any instructions anyway).

Observe my lack of Photoshop color-matching skills.

Color with the brush directly into the palette, add water from the waterbrush as you fancy, mix with the brush, put brush to paper. It’s insanely, satisfyingly simple. Normally, mixing colors is a rigmarole production of brush to color, to water, then clean brush, get new color, try not to contaminate the source colors, mix, clean brush, get more color, so on. Here, the middleman of sending brush to color has been consolidated into a glorious lovechild of brush and color source. The brush IS the color source. Fantastic! You can color directly with the brush, mix color in the palette, do whatever you want. That is what convenience is about, my friend.

I don't understand how this pukey yellow-green makes that lovely peach skin tone. Do not understand.

That pinkish effect? Made with this green. I...I don't even know.

Now, I used the waterbrush the entire time for painting; I don’t know if that is the typical protocol of what is supposed to be done. The advantage of using the waterbrush is that it cleans itself out; no need for multiple cups of water for rinsing dirty brushes, providing water to clean ones, serving as an intermediate water state between dirty and clean… Just have some scrap paper handy to wipe the waterbrush out on until it’s clear again. Ta-da. It’s practically magic. The body is easy to squeeze if needed, simple to refill, and lasts for quite a while (I’m still on my first full fill).

The disadvantage of using the waterbrush: I often failed to get a fine tip effect. I have brushes I could have used for that. But I didn’t want to deal with cups of water. Perhaps with a lighter touch, I could get the same from the waterbrush. Another disadvantage: sometimes in painting, I was lifting color up due to the wateriness of the brush. But this seems more like a problem with watercolor in general than with this waterbrush.

By your powers combined...

Let me pull this all together: if you like watercolor, and especially if you want to be able to do watercolors on the go, you should get this set (brush pens, water brush, little palette, the whole thing, buddy, no skimping). The brushes are all great to work with; as you can see in this picture, the tips are synthetic individual brush strands (NOT felt tip. I am mostly against felt-tip); the waterbrush is the same. I would recommend you get a black pen as well. Everything you need (besides a sketchbook, of course) to paint with watercolors can fit in your pocket. I have had no problems with any spilling or leaking in carrying my set in one of my Nomadic pencil cases. For a little over $20, painting has become convenient enough that I can do it on a regular basis. That is a convenience well worth your money.

Now, before I set you loose with a page of painting examples I did and your requisite item links, I want to send a big thank you to JetPens. When I ordered this set, the yellow pen arrived having leaked into its cap. I contacted JetPens about it, and they sent me a replacement pen with no problems and no hassle. Their customer service is just…so pleasant, it’s hard to believe it’s categorized under the same umbrella as the typical nightmares masquerading as “customer service.” They are terrifically helpful people; if you ever have a problem with your order, just let them know. (I wish I had known this sooner, I could have sought their advice over a finicky Tachikawa manga fountain pen…but that’s another review.) Thanks JetPens! :D I will definitely be buying more of these pens when they run out. (and more pens…all the time…)

Art! Doodles! Paint! Insanity! All colors on this page made with the Autumn color set (plus a little Pentel brush pen black). Inking done with..Sakura microns? And maybe a Tachikawa manga fountain pen? Heck, who knows. Click this thing! You know you want to examine these masterpieces.

Akashiya Sai Watercolor Brush Pen – 5 Autumn Color Set at JetPens

Akashiya Sai Watercolor Mini Pallet at JetPens

Kuretake Waterbrush – Small – Compact Size at JetPens